Prostate Cancer: Surgeon’s Skill Matters Most

Doctor says focus on track record of success

man confused about decision

When it comes to prostate cancer surgery, the experience and skill of the surgeon may have a bigger impact on the outcome than how the surgery was performed.

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A new study led by a Cleveland Clinic urologist studied people who had robotic versus “open” surgery for prostate cancer to see who had better outcomes. Researchers found little difference in bladder and sexual function between these groups.

Andrew Stephenson, MD, Director of the Center for Urologic Oncology at the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute, and his team of researchers split nearly 400 people in two groups. About half had robotic surgery to remove their prostate cancer, while the other half had the more traditional open procedure.

The researchers found sexual function for both groups was about the same after surgery. But the robotic group experienced a slightly slower return to continence.

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The common denominator of the successful surgeries, Dr. Stephenson says, was the skill and experience of the surgeon.

“You should really focus on trying to find an individual surgeon who has a track record of success and experience performing high-quality prostatectomy,” says Dr. Stephenson. “It should matter less whether that surgeon performs open prostatectomy or the robotic technique.”

Dr. Stephenson recommends asking three key questions when deciding who will handle your prostate cancer treatment:

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  • How many prostate cancer operations has the surgeon/surgery center performed?
  • Are the surgeon and surgery center monitoring and publicly reporting the outcomes of patients they’ve treated?
  • What is the track record of success for the particular surgeon/surgery center?

The findings were presented at the Society for Urological Oncology’s annual meeting.

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